September 22, 2013
I may repeat a few things I've said previously in this installment. It was written several days before I uploaded my weekly iMPACT review and some similar points found their way into that video. If you don't like it, you're just being mean. Shame on you.
From the ashes...
Another week and another Knockout gone from TNA. Now Mickie James has clocked out, leaving us with a whopping FOUR active Knockouts left. Yikes. While most of the previous cuts didn't bother me, this one hurts. Mickie was the only Knockout (well, the only one in a wrestling role) doing something that was genuinely interesting and fun to watch. Her recent heel turn seemed to have really inspired her and she'd been doing her best character work in years, to say nothing of the fact that she was the Knockouts champion until this past Thursday. Now it's ODB again. Sigh...
But I'm not going to lie. This news didn't cut me as deeply as you might think, and to be honest, that's what concerns me more than anything else -- the fact that I wasn't bothered as much as I should have been. Because when you get right down to it, at this point I think the Knockout division in its current incarnation is pretty much unsalvageable. Why lose a lot of sleep over another departure when the damage is already so extensive that there's no bringing it back, at least not like the way it was? TNA's women's roster is now the smallest its been since before it had a women's division; we're passed the point of no return here. I don't want to liken it to a horse with a broken leg, but I'm sorely tempted right now.
But let's take a glass half full approach for a minute. As former WWE stars, Mickie and the previously released Tara surely commanded much heftier price tags than talents who have never been on TV before. With the money TNA was paying those two, they could probably afford to hire three or four girls from the indies who would be starting at the bottom of the pay scale, rather than the top. And it's a safe bet that this is where any potential new signees are going to be coming from.
With cost-cutting mode in full effect, TNA can't afford to offer up lots of big contracts to 'name' talent anymore because, as we've seen by now, those people haven't done much to increase business and those who get paid more money than they're bringing in simply aren't worth it to the company when its belt is this tight. By all accounts, Tara was one of the higher paid women on the roster, but she'd done everything there was for her to do, she wasn't being used in an important role, so she was cut. While Mickie (whom you can be damn sure didn't come cheap either) was in a prominent spot, contract negotiations apparently broke down, perhaps because the deal she requested was too large to offset the cost of keeping her, so they parted ways with her as well.
New talent has to come in at some point. When it does, it's most likely going to be up-and-coming girls from the indies the company can get as cheaply as possible. The days of them going after every former Diva that becomes available are over for now (though I imagine they could get Serena Deeb for a pretty reasonable price). And correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this what many of us have been wanting TNA to do for so long; to stop relying on WWE imports, to focus on creating and branding their own stars? Well, now they've got no choice but to do this.
Call me crazy, but this prospect excites me. Remember, I'm the guy who once suggested that TNA scrap most of the current Knockout roster and hit the reset button. Well, guess what... the first half of that has now happened! If and when this division eventually rises from the ashes, it's going to be as something completely different. It's not going to look like it did before, though ironically, it will share many similarities with its original incarnation.
At Bound For Glory 2007 the Knockout division started with a couple familiar faces and a whole bunch of women casual fans had never seen before. And because TNA were smart about who they hired and how they were booked, the division was a rousing success. For many people, that was their favorite period for the Knockouts even though that was the time when the division arguably had the least star power. It can be like that again!
Between the Knockouts Knockdown PPV and the Gutcheck Challenge, they've got at least five women in front of them who would be great choices and need very little, if any, development to be ready for TV. Seven if you count the Blossom Twins (Not Lei'D Tapa though. She needs more work.). Yes, some of the recent losses do hurt from an experience standpoint, but no one is irreplaceable. I don't think there's really anything Mickie James can do that someone like Shanna couldn't, unless you count the country music thing.
My point is this: TNA created a great women's division largely from unknown talents once before; there's no reason why they can't do it a second time. That's why, in a bizarre way, I look at all this belt-tightening as a positive. They don't have the luxury of splurging on name talent of questionable value when there are plenty of women out there who might not have the recognizability factor, but are just as talented, if not more so, and can be acquired for less money. I've long been wanting TNA to focus on scouting women like this instead and I believe that's what's going to happen now.
My suggestion? Take the division as it exists right now and kill it. Stop delaying the inevitable; just pull the plug and put it out of its misery. Take the women off the board. The ones in storyline-dictated roles (i.e. Tessmacher, Velvet) can stick around, but as far as the division and its championship are concerned, discontinue them and have them sit out for a while. Keep the women away from each other, let the dust settle, give the fans a chance to miss them. Then at Point X in the future, once you've signed 4-6 new female talents (and don't tell me they couldn't make that work. They did it in 2007.), reboot the Knockout division with its new and improved roster, and bring it back with a bang on a big show with a heavily hyped angle or match like the gauntlet battle royal where the first champion was crowned years ago. It might be awkward having the women's division off the show for a time, but IMO, it sure beats watching it die a slow painful death on screen week after week.
[More on this in a few days.]
Hogan knows best? Really?
I'm not backstage. I don't know how much Hogan actually does in TNA. I don't know what his official title is or what duties he performs. But I know he pushed for iMPACT to go head-to-head with RAW on Monday nights even though they couldn't maintain their increased viewership from the 1/04/10 show in their usual timeslot. They moved to Monday nights and it was a disaster.
I know he endorsed Garett Bischoff as "the future of wrestling" despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. TNA pushed Garett, he tanked, and to this day he hasn't been able to shake the "You can't wrestle!" chants.
I know he said that going live would solve something like 80% of the TNA's problems. They went live, it didn't seem to solve much of anything and added additional costs the company didn't need.
I know he encouraged Dixie Carter to take the show on the road at a time when the ratings were flat and the product had little buzz. They took the show on the road, it didn't lead to any increased business, it drove expenses through the roof and several months later the rumor mill is full of chatter that they're looking at settling into another permanent location as a cost-cutting measure.
I know that he recently said in an interview that in order for the company to be successful, it would take (slightly paraphrasing here, mind you) "an unlimited budget and an act of God," which must have surely pissed off a lot of fellow TNA employees.
And I know that, given his recent track record, Dixie Carter should probably stop taking business advice from Hulk Hogan, a man whose grasp on reality seems to be growing more tenuous with each passing day.
His presence hasn't brought about any significant increase in viewership. In fact, ratings have gone down since he showed up a few years ago. His performance on iMPACT seems to be growing increasingly careless and he's getting paid a ton of money for seemingly doing very little. His contract is up very soon. I sincerely hope TNA will put a great deal of thought into whether this guy is really worth keeping.
Getting off the road
The thought of TNA getting off the road and moving to a new permanent location is incredibly discouraging. It doesn't even have anything to do with what it would mean for the way the show looks -- it's been proven by now that filming in a big arena has exactly zero effect on the ratings. It's more that they would essentially have to concede that the company simply wasn't ready to take this step forward and take one backward instead. It would be the Monday Night Massacre all over again.
I'm going to be echoing a lot of what Talon said here, but if there's any possible way they can afford to stay on the road, then IMO they should do it. If they have to cut more people, so be it. Though a few of the roster cuts have been hard to take, ultimately they've all been cuts I can live with, and in fact, there are a number of additional cuts I would make if I were in TNA's shoes (why on earth is Chavo Guerrero still getting a paycheck?). And yes, they've had to eliminate a lot of the frills, but have they really suffered that much for it? Streamlining things, getting rid of non-essential positions, releasing talents that weren't worth the money -- isn't this more or less what smart businesses are supposed to do anyway? One could argue that the realities of being on the road simply forced company management to finally make the hard choices they should have been making years ago.
I would really hate to see this happen. TNA's financial figures are known only to them, but there's no denying that the crowds outside of the Chicago taping haven't been particularly large. It's possible that the situation could be worse than we know. But if that's the case, the fact that they didn't leave themselves some kind of fallback plan in the event that the road shows didn't work out is head-scratching. They can't go back to the iMPACT Zone now; it doesn't exist anymore. It's like TNA got rid of their safety net without making 100% sure they could tightrope walk without it. They could have tested the waters for a while, tried doing road shows every other week for a year or so to see if they were lucrative, but instead they jumped in head first without an exit strategy.
I won't bother speculating exactly how and why this happened. For now, let's say it's a done deal. Please don't go back to Orlando, TNA. Anywhere else I could live with, but not Orlando. Those fans couldn't have been more burned out if you lit them on fire. That said, if there's one location that would be worse than Orlando, it's Nashville. I can't think of a single locale that would more symbolic of TNA's failure to make the road shows work than going back to where they started over a decade ago. Can you even imagine them trying film TV back at the Asylum after touring all over the country, not to mention selling out the Wembley Arena in the UK? How soul-crushing that would be? I don't even want to think about it.
I was disappointed to read that Las Vegas was being ruled out. A location where they could be a tourist attraction like they were at Universal Studios would be a plus, so the possibility of settling in Vegas sounded ideal. They could have been an all-ages alternative for minors or people with families that couldn't get into casinos and the like, so it's a shame that won't be an option .
But regardless, there's no substitute for being on the road. Doing this meant so much for the company. To take it back now would be terrible for morale, not to mention give the haters and dirt sheets more ammunition, and quite frankly, they have enough already. If it has to be done, it has to be done, but I hope TNA will think long and hard about this. Being on the road is tough, but it could be worth it in the long run if they just clench their teeth and push on.
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